(Photo by Estelle Massry – COUCOU Photography)
On Dec. 4 at Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse in Dunellen, New Jersey, former guitarist for Spin Doctors and Lenny Kravitz (to name a few), Anthony Krizan shifted confidently into his new role as frontman to support his debut solo album. The raucous record release party for Dust and Bone heightened the buzz already surrounding the album with the unleashing of Krizan’s soulful voice and his band of hand-picked players—C.C. Coletti on background vocals, Justine Gardner on bass, John Korba on keyboards, John Hummel and Jim Ruffi on drums, and Chuggy Carter and Freddie Macarone on percussion (other notable names appear on the album). The audience of fans, fellow musicians and industry folk grooved to the eclectic sounds featured on Dust and Bone as the band cranked through gritty, yet, refined songs such as the title track and the catchy blues-laced tune, “Can’t Kick the Habit.” Ripping through the album, they mixed it up with the lush “Soul on Fire,” proving Krizan’s versatility as a singer, player and songwriter.
A New Jersey native, Krizan arrives on the scene brimming with the depth and breadth of musicianship that can only be gained after decades in the business. As a songwriter/singer/guitar-player trifecta—plus, he’s one hell of a producer—Krizan has contributed to numerous hit songs with chart-topping artists (Spin Doctors, Lenny Kravitz, Gretchen Wilson, and more) and written various soundtracks (Spin City) while collaborating with some of the best in scene. The title track, “Dust and Bone,” a song Krizan originally wrote for Gretchen Wilson, was picked up by Tim Hicks and recorded. It went to the top of SoundScan’s Country Charts, though on his album, Krizan owns the song down to its blues-rockin’ roots.
A tenacious, immersive musician, Krizan respects the integrity and truth of the music which is apparent in the music on this first solo effort. It reflects years of studio and stage sweat that cannot be reproduced with an iPad or Auto-Tune. Dust and Bone is a satisfying sink-your-teeth-in album that grooves enough to also be radio-friendly. Anthony Krizan is arriving at a necessary time for music and may even be long overdue.
Now, you’ve had success with the Spin Doctors as well as collaborations with many others, and you’ve been the lead guitarist and songwriter mostly. How was the transition to focusing on a solo album, a project that is finally all yours?
The Spin Doctors was like 15 years ago, and in this business you’ve got to do everything you can, as much as you can. I’ve always been a writer, a producer, a songwriter, and I’ve always collaborated. I started making money producing and recording demos for people, and that was another thing I enjoyed doing—I have a passion for songwriting and working with good bands, singer-songwriter type of stuff. I’d learn from them, or I’d teach them stuff. I’ve been doing that to make money and honing my production skills ever since. I’ve always been kind of the side guy, the wizard behind the curtain, backing up other people. I kind of wish I started making records after the Spin Doctors, because we had a really big following like in Spain and different parts of Europe. I’d probably have a huge career by now. I finally, now, decided to finish my own record. It took a while, but I figured, “Let me finish a record before I die,” you know?
Dust and Bone is so well-produced and includes a lot of talented musicians. Can you talk a bit about why you picked these players for the album?
Well, John Hummel is one of my favorite drummers and such a great friend. He played on some stuff, and I love his style. I played on a few tracks. I play drums on “Dust and Bone,” and I also used Chad Cromwell on all the other tracks. He played on like five tunes.
I met Chad Cromwell in a session with a side project called the Missing Cats. My friend Sherman who I play with in New York is good friends with JoJo, the keyboard player from Widespread Panic. JoJo, Sherman and I got together and wrote about 10 songs. We wrote a whole record together. Then JoJo had a guy—since he’s in a jamband—who wanted to finance a record. JoJo lives in Nashville, and we got Cromwell, who played with Neil Young on Harvest Moon—now, he’s playing with Joe Walsh…he’s played on Mark Knopfler…so many great records. Sam Bush played mandolin…it was like a magic chemistry in the studio…we made charts…we just kind of did that for like four days.
So, I met Cromwell there, and he’s just such a nice guy, we just started talking. So, yeah, he cut the drums there in Nashville. And he’d send me the drums [tracks] back, and I’d put them into my recording sessions in Jersey. I kind of got the sound of Nashville from him.
He has a guy who played with Brad Paisley named Kevin Grantt. He plays stand up on “Mexico.” Jim Hoke played horns on “Soul on Fire”—Chad turned me onto him…he’s part of a Muscle Shoals horn section. John Korba played keys, and Rob Clores played keys on some stuff. John Ginty played on a track. C.C. Coletti sang background on some songs. This girl, Kim, who sang background with Rihanna sang background on “Whiskey and Wine,” so it’s got like a gospel feel. Those are most of the musicians on the record, and I played a lot myself—I played guitar, some bass and drums. I used choice players for certain feels.
You can hear the variety of influences on each song … “Soul on Fire” has an almost R&B feel, “One More Last Time” is country-infused…
Yeah, I write a lot of songs that start out on acoustic with me just messing around and kind of going for an Otis Redding sound, I think that’s what I was going for on “Soul on Fire.” “One More Last Time” I wrote with Cheryl DaVeiga. We were writing a country song, but I turned it into a bit more rock, almost like Southern rock with a bit of Dylan in it, too. I like some country, but I don’t really like the mainstream cheesy country. So, that song is like an old sh*t-kickin’ Southern anthem, you know?
There is also a jamband/Crowes sound on the album…
I’m influenced by bands like the Allman Brothers and Tedeschi Trucks…like the song, “Thanks for Letting Me Love You.”
Considering your role or identity as a guitar player for all these years, how was the transition to being a singer/frontman for you? Was it a natural progression?
Well, I think I’ve always been able to sing, even in my high school bands. I sang background more because I focused on guitar and let other guys front the band, but I’ve always been good with harmonies. My influences were people like Paul Rodgers, the Stones, and soul singers like Otis Redding. I’m influenced by those kinds of singers. Yeah, I’ve always been singing background on records. On recordings I’ve done background and harmonies, sang on everybody’s demos…I’ve been singing for years, but I could never really get my own stuff out there. I’ve produced a lot of singers. I’ve spent a lot of time—almost like a vocal teacher—teaching people how to loosen up, to sing in key, to make themselves comfortable, to get the best out of them, so I kind of learned a lot by teaching people as a producer.
How different of an experience is it for you, as a producer, to go in and produce your own album to achieve your sound?
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to just close the book on it. You could probably f*ck with it forever and take the soul out of it. As far as doing my own thing, I guess I recorded a lot and ended up taking some stuff out. A guy I mixed my record with, Tony, has a really great ear, so we’d go through stuff and we’d decide if it was too much we’d take this out. I recorded a lot of stuff, ended up taking some stuff out—so, I got a little help on the mix. A lot of times, when you’re producing and not tracking with a live band—sometimes I was just working with myself, and some of the stuff I did track live—you put more on than you need to see what you want to strip out…to see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s how a lot of guys work…put it down to see how parts work around each other.
Given the many different musicians you collaborated with on the album and producing, how long did the process take?
Well, on and off for two to three years, because I didn’t really have a deadline. I just kept writing songs. I was still writing songs toward the end, and it was like, “Man, I still have a few songs I wanted to put on there.” I have this new song… it’s almost done. It’s Sly Stone…real bluesy and upbeat, almost like “Family Affair” but more rockin’. I didn’t finish it, because we just had to get this record done. When you keep writing and you have a studio, it’s easy to just keep going and never finish. Plus, as a writer, you grow, and in life you have different experiences, so some songs on the record I like, but it’s not where I’m at anymore in my head. I’ve got these songs that are more where I’m at lyrically in my life. That’s how songwriters work, I think. But the album is a good collection of songs, and I’m happy with it that it’s done.
Sounds like you have lots of material for the next album already…
Yeah, I already have a bunch of song ideas that I haven’t started recording yet. I’m writing every time I pick up my guitar, a few ideas a week…I’ve got tons of ideas on my phone with melodies and guitar riffs that I have to, at some point, start going through and picking the best ones like I did on this last record. It just takes time. And I haven’t had time because I spend a lot of time making my living working a lot in my studio and gigging. I haven’t focused on that, yet, because I’ve been focused on my record which is coming out in Japan, and I’ve got distribution here now. So, I’m just trying to work the angles on getting airplay without a label behind me…just trying to do as much as I can on my own to reach people.
You certainly have great songs that I could also hear on the radio…Will there be a tour?
I would love to get on some kind of tour with bands like Tedeschi Trucks or anyone in the vein of what I’m doing. I hope that can happen. My ultimate goal is to play all my own songs, not covers…to play festivals, clubs, vibey places that will work with my music, you know? So, hopefully, that will come about in a few months, and I can get opportunities to play on some big stages. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of response we get out there since we’ve been getting a pretty good response so far.
Seriously…any response I’ve heard from those who have listened to Dust and Bone has been positive…
Thanks. I always feel like—while the songs are really important—there’s the whole social media thing. There are people who spend a lot more time honing their craft and people who spend a lot more time on social media who may not have as good of a product but get further because they’re working that angle of it. It is a whole other side of the business, and I’m not great at that end of it. I mean, I definitely want to spend time getting some videos and footage together, but I’m not one of those kids who—every 10 minutes—puts stuff up on Instagram. I just don’t do that, though it is important because you can get it out there without spending money to do it. So, it is an important component to getting your music out there.
I was about to ask if it is frustrating for you, a musician who has been working at this for years, trying to navigate the changes within the industry?
I’m working on that angle, and once I get some gigs and video footage under my belt with this album, I think it [social media] will be a good vehicle for it. But I think good music will reach people…it will find an audience even grassroots, old-style. My songs are being heard on all these streaming platforms, so, hopefully, they will reach some people that way. But, I am definitely into putting some good clips of my gigs up there, and, hopefully, we’ll draw some attention that way.
Your music has been well-received and fans who attend festivals really appreciate quality music, so it will be exciting when you guys start touring with the album…
Yeah, if I get the opportunity to get in front of those audiences with my band, we’ll do well with my music, hold our own and people will like what we’re doing… if we get that shot.
Well, you’re definitely off to a good start.
See Anthony Krizan on Feb. 17 at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. Dust and Bone is available on iTunes and Amazon.com. For more information, visit AnthonyKrizan.com.